PUZZLES: Unthemely #86



Several months ago I contracted with Puzzlewright Press to create a book of 15×15 themeless crossword puzzles. The book contains some new puzzles and some puzzles published on this blog in the Unthemely series. I submitted the completed manuscript in October and am proud to announce that Fresh Freestyle Crosswords will be available in bookstores in 2016!

Because the book contains several of the older Unthemely crosswords I have removed the download links for all such puzzles on the blog’s Puzzle page. I may refurbish some of these older puzzles that were not used in the book and post them as future Unthemely series offerings.


Birnholz Helms Sunday WP Magazine / WSJ Meta Crossword


This week the Washington Post announced that Evan Birnholz will take over constructing duties of its Sunday magazine crossword puzzle. The position was previously held by Merl Reagle who passed away in August. The new gig will require Evan to cut back on Devil Cross blog posts and to take a leave of absence from his co-organizational role in the Indie 500 Crossword Tournament. I will miss the regular puzzle updates on his blog but I am incredibly happy for Evan and know his talents will preserve the high level of puzzle quality associated with the Washington Post Sunday magazine.

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My first meta crossword puzzle for the Wall Street Journal appeared today. The puzzle, “Menu Substitutions,” is available in PDF format here. It’s already received the Amy Goldstein seal of approval, and I hope you enjoy it as well.

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There are still plenty of Exquisite Fruit questions to guess. Many of the questions are easy and perhaps don’t require a posting of the answer, but do read through the questions because they are entertaining,

Exquisite High School Students


I recently had the opportunity to lead a group of high school students in some puzzle and game activities. We played some classic packaged games like Set and Squint and then I taught them Exquisite Fruit. As is often the case with newcomers to the game, the students took one round to warm up to the mechanics and then proceeded confidently and enthusiastically. Several students wrote down names of teachers and colleagues on their slips leading to inside references, but I was mainly interested to see the general topics that these teenagers would pick for answers, and the grammatical and editorial approach they would use in forming the questions. I transcribed some of the rounds below. Feel free to post answers in the comments — one answer per commenter, please. Clues with asterisks have been guessed.

1. What is a delicious thick meat fried crunchy baked on a beak and white?
2. Gotta go fast Harrison Ford in Star good person vest with a gun Chewie?
3. What is a warm cozy shirt you wear when it is comfy and warm?
4. Who is this cute snowman that is a dweeb who likes warm hugs stuff?
5. What is a planet by the earth is next month is like cheese in sky?
6. A card game that has ninja panda that is annoying actor that sells cheap?
7. The best holiday full ham food stuffy dinner food yummy gravy and turkey stuffs?
8. What is the big smelly trash car but bigger junk packed vroom vroom vroom?
9. What is the worst and has meaning nothing matters food sleep all day everyday?
* 10. What is the state with snow and colorful scenery right here smoke weed here?
11. Who is the funny guy with bad ugly poophead ugly and can’t be president?
12. Who is a detective that solves mysteries very good thinker and cool as smart?
* 13. Who is the best narrator deep voice snakes plane and Shawshank looks like gold?
14. He comes down the chimney with big chubby belly and cookies of diabetes life?
15. Are they windows can be curious minded looking at one’s retinas and corneas scratched?
16. What is the character a hard exterior body builder can be speedy car?
17. What is the yummy iphone products crushed sauce that is red green crisp?
* 18. Who is the GQ model cry baby football player with nice football player football?
19. What is the colorful stripes of different much color gay pride with color explosion?
20. A horrible movie very terrible breaking dawn that’s Kristen Stewart stupid romance Edward?
21. Is the best patriotic free large US are great free independent outrageous taxes too?
22. What is the spinning circle hip swing fun party around circle big ring sparkly?
* 23. It’s full of naked cats are everywhere my life love Netflix and turkey explore?